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Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) CEO Carol Bartz today said an army of editorial curators, not algorithms, who are “always watching” were the “secret sauce” at Yahoo, as she showed off the company’s digital newsstand, dubbed Livestand, during her keynote at the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona. She said that Yahoo collects 200 terrabytes of data every four days.
Livestand, which aims to offer “personalized” mobile content — particularly magazine and newspaper content — is Yahoo’s big attempt to stake out some territory in the tablet market, which is fast becoming a landgrab with Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) and Google (NSDQ: GOOG) the primary freeholders. The service/app was first announced last week and puts Yahoo in competition not just with Google and Apple but developers like Flipboard and Taptu (the latter run by former Yahoo exec Mitch Lazar).
First impressions. The Livestand app, which was demonstrated by Irv Henderson on an iPad, looks really smooth. Significantly it was perhaps the first demo I’ve seen in a keynote that has actually works — and that may have been because the content was cached rather than viewed over the Internet. Generally Yahoo has been in the camp of companies that have advocated Internet-based content rather than native apps.
The main problem to me was that it seemed like everything, from the magazines to the advertising, effectively looked the same — the content may be personalized but the user experience is not. The most standout piece of content was an advertisement from HP (NYSE: HPQ), which let a user select the page being viewed, fold it into a paper airplane and then use the iPad accelerometer to fly the plane into an HP printer.
Bartz didn’t really take the opportunity today to address the questions people have been asking about the company — she completely deflected a question about the threat of Facebook and Yahoo’s decline in page views and in the search rankings. When asked by David Rowan, the panel moderator, about the business models for content in the future, she sang a very familiar tune: “I think consumers are just fine with advertising,” she said.
If Yahoo is focussed only on advertising, will this mean that it will be looking to offer users “free” content subsidised by ads on Livestand? We still don’t know, but this would make it potentially very disruptive, considering that Apple and Google have been looking at paid subscriptions to drive this kind of content on their services. (Yahoo has said it would offer subscriptions for some content, too.)
The content in the Livestand app will be curated/selected by individual users, not Yahoo itself, but at the same time Yahoo (like Google and so many others) hopes that users will allow Yahoo to track what they do and recommend content as well: that would let Yahoo send more targeted, and more premium, advertising alongside that content.
Livestand will launch with the public release of Android Gingerbread and will then also be available via the Apple App Store and the Android Market.